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    Our dear departed

    Vincent Van Meel

    Vincent Van Meel

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    Vincent Van MeelVincent Van Meel

    (1927 – 2023)

    Born in Essen on January 17, 1927.
    Religious vows on September 8, 1947.
    Priest ordained on August 3, 1952.
    Missionary in Congo (Kasai) and Belgium.

    Died in Halle on 20 November 2023, at the age of 96.


    Cit attended Normal School in Torhout after his formation in Scheut. I picture him as a young missionary and a teacher in Ngandajika and Mbuji-Mayi. He was intelligent, curious, and eager to learn, open but critical. He probably had a stack of books because he read all his life until almost the last day. A person does not change.

    Thirteen years as a teacher of young people brought him insight into another culture. Years later, he still talked about those experiences, often with humour but also with seriousness.  Living in and respecting another culture is a task for every missionary. Cit succeeded. Sixteen years of parish pastoral work in Mbuji-Mayi, Muene Ditu, and Luputa followed. In a challenging process for local faith communities to choose their leaders, form them and encourage them to take responsibility, Cit was once again a master.

    Then Cit was elected Provincial. He was the right man in the right place. He was a man of 'no-nonsense', with his feet on the ground. That was the way everyone liked him. His openness made him likewise attentive to changes in the world. Continuing education and faith deepening were his response to the changes.

    At one of the provincial council meetings, a 'hot' topic came up: 'Justice and Peace'. We are talking about the 1970s and 1980s. The turbulent post-independence years were behind us. New rulers emerged, mostly dictators. Mobutu was one of those. In law and justice, the fathers were not so besotted. And yet, this was important to protect and defend the man in the street from flagrant injustice and exploitation. Someone was sought to take up those studies in preparation for a commitment to Justice and Peace. Young priests and brothers looked forward to obtaining a doctorate degree. But Cit thought differently. He said, "I am looking for a woman. A woman has a better feeling for the situation. She is more caring. From on higher up, one can contradict and boycott her, but one will never physically attack her because she is a woman. She guarantees life that she carries within her, and that life is sacred." And so he thought of a woman, a nun, a religious, who was wise, and had already given evidence of her tireless commitment to the plight of ordinary people. And so she was

    appointed to take up those studies. Scheut paid for them. You have to have guts to take such a decision. Wise people usually make wise decisions. Cit, “a man of no-nonsense”, was one of them.

    Cit was 66 years old when he returned to Belgium for good. Thirty-nine years of mission were behind him. He came to the community of Kessel-Lo to be at rest. His eyes had gone bad. But he had his share of community life: his presence every morning with the confreres in the care ward, starting with saying "Good morning", taking them by wheelchair to the chapel, to coffee hour or to the "potus" and back, as well as mundane tasks in the kitchen, such as doing the dishes. It was his interpretation of being at-rest-in-community. When he would go back to his room then, he would say, "I'm going to read my book." How many times would he have said that his listening device was his most faithful companion, in Kessel-Lo and later in Zuun, until even few days before his death.

    Only now that he spoke much less than before of what he had read. But, reading he did. And his loyalty to the community remained the same: silent presence.When all has been said, silence is the only language that can still be listened to. When a life is as good as complete, silent presence is the only thing that still connects you to others, to your fellow brothers, to the Other, the only thing that still gives meaning and purpose.

    That makes a person grateful after a fascinating life in the service of others. A grateful person never dies.

    Cit, thanks for everything. And now read on.

    Jan Reynebeau